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Five Tips for Avoiding Railroad Crossing Accidents in Austin

railroad crossing sign against cloudy skyAustin has its fair share of railroad crossings. From the intersections at Matthews Lane to West Mary Street, these crossings are vital to transportation in our town, but can also put pedestrians and motorists at risk for serious injuries and even death. Although safety around railroad crossings seems pretty basic, you may be surprised at how many people are hurt and killed each year because of accidents at these intersections.

Staying Safe At Railroad Crossings in Austin

To prevent head injuries, broken bones, severe lacerations, or worse, follow these tips to avoid railroad accidents:

  1. Stay off the tracks. Not only is walking or riding on train tracks extremely dangerous, doing so is also illegal. Train tracks are private property, which means that being on the tracks unless you are riding on a train is considered trespassing. Additionally, trains aren’t able to stop as quickly as a cars or trucks are able to. In fact, it can take the average freight train traveling at 55 mph more than a mile to stop. This means by the time the conductor sees you and hits the brakes, it will be too late to avoid a potentially fatal collision.
  2. Expect the unexpected. Not all railroad crossings are equipped with safety features like arms and stoplights, which means drivers must be extra diligent when crossing at these points. Freight trains don’t operate on set schedules, and commuter trains can change their routines at any time. Therefore, you can never expect to be safe when near a railroad crossing. Additionally, trains are designed to be much quieter than they used to be, and some railroad crossings in Austin are designated “quiet zones,” so you will not hear the usual blast of the horn as a train approaches. You’ll have to look both ways and pay extra attention before you cross the tracks to get to the road ahead. Trains can also travel along the tracks in either direction; just because the track is clear one way doesn’t mean it will be clear the other way. Make sure you look in both directions before you proceed.
  3. Steer clear of the tracks. You’ve probably seen in the movies where a car travels alongside a train, but you should never attempt this dangerous feat on your own. Trains can extend three feet or more beyond the steel rail, meaning they can still strike pedestrians or motorists who are off the tracks, but within range. The bottom line is you should never ride anywhere near tracks except for the designated crossings, and only when they are empty.
  4. Stay focused. Distractions are all around motorists, and they can become extremely dangerous when traveling around train tracks. In order to protect yourself, you should turn down your radio so that you can hear what is coming towards you. Additionally, refrain from looking at anything that can take your attention away from the tracks, including cell phones, radios, and other passengers.
  5. Never assume. Assuming that you can beat a train or that the tracks are not in use is completely dangerous and can result in grave injuries. Even if the track looks deserted or weeds are growing through the rails, there’s a good chance the tracks are still in use. Furthermore, trains always have the right of way, no matter who you are, including emergency vehicles, pedestrians, cars, and the police, so never assume they will stop. Additionally, the average locomotive weighs 400,000 pounds, or 200 tons. Some even weigh up to 6,000 tons. Imagine what can happen if a train of that size collides with you or your vehicle.

If Negligence Caused You to Become Injured

If another driver’s negligence caused you to become injured at a railroad crossing or at the hands of a locomotive, you could be entitled to receive compensation. If a car rear-ended you and caused you to enter a crossing and you were hit, or a motorist performed another action that caused injury or death near a railroad crossing, you may be entitled to receive compensation. Contact the attorneys of Wayne Wright by calling 800-237-3334 to schedule your appointment to find out how we can help.